Saturday, January 28, 2006

That's Right......I'm Bad



Attitude. You can have attitude without confidence, but confidence begets attitude. How 'bout that? "Young man, you'd better change your attitude"...... "Boy, that chick's got an attitude".......Mr T.... BA..... Bad attitude. I learned early on that attitude can make or break you.
I went to St Mary's Grammar School, Plainfield NJ, in the late fifties and early sixties. Plainfield, like the rest of the country, was feeling the beginnings of social unrest. Here was my plight. From about third grade on I used to walk home from school.....about a mile or so. The problem was that students from Hubbard Junior HS and Plainfield HS were walking in the opposite direction..and they didn't seem to like me too much. Maybe it was the uniform, but everyday it was something. Spit on, robbed, punched or just harassed. I got pretty good at smelling trouble and knowing escape routes. Did you ever see the Seinfeld where George discovers that if he walks around looking angry and agitated all day no one bothers him. It works!! If trouble was coming my way I'd kind of look down...not away.....and mumble to myself. If anybody said anything I'd give them my Elvis sneer and a look that said, "Hey, I got no time for you, pal!", pick up the pace a little and keep an eye out for a convenient escape route. I'd be dealing with this every day so I was used to it, but about half the time a friend or two would be with me and they'd be a little nervous. If a "situation" was developing they'd say, "Teddy, do the Rin Tin Tin story." I don't remember the story now but I'd start talking and gesturing and they'd all be listening intently, apparantly oblivious to anything else and we'd usually skate. Attitude.
It got to the point where I'd abandoned the escape routes, except in dire circumstances, and instead used guile, cunning, chutzpah and, of course, attitude. I found that a bloody lip is preferable to that feeling you get in your stomach when you cut and run. But a good escape from a no win situation can also bring a bit of satisfaction...discretion being the better part of valor. I remember so clearly a snowball throwing incident. This was after I'd moved to Piscataway and my cohorts and I had just unloaded and were getting ready to fly. For some reason I didn't run. I stood my ground on the frozen outfield of the Knollwood School baseball field and watched my friends take off, their frozen breath in the air spelling the words, "Move it, jackass." I wasn't coming this time. Don't know why. The first pursuer flew by me and here came his pal right behind him. I wasn't looking for a fight. When you're fourteen and the competition is seventeen or eighteen you try to avoid that. I was simply gonna adopt a certain attitude and explain to the gentleman that we merely....WHAM!!!!! Y' know, Daffy Duck was right. You really do see stars. The next thing I knew my buddies were standing over me laughing hysterically. They'd escaped and I had a fat lip. But I didn't have that feeling in my stomach
You've heard the term "adrenaline rush." D'ja ever feel it? It is so cool. There are bushes and fences I've leapt in the back yards of Plainfield and Piscataway that I never could have cleared without the big A. I've outrun guys on the football field who should have caught me but for the surge. It's like your body goes into fifth gear....like an angel is giving you a gentle push and lift. It's really very spititual. As adults we usually don't get a chance to experience a good adrenaline rush. Or if we do, once again it's in dire circumstances. Clear! Clear!
One of my favorite expressions is "pick your battles." This just means make sure it's worth it. Do you really want to argue with the grocer over how he's bagging? Or with your girlfriend 'cause she's ten minutes late? Maybe you do. You could be arguing with everybody all day. C'mon! And most times you can avoid a situation with...attitude. Y'know who had attitude? Superman. Not George Reeve, the TV Superman, or, as far as I could tell, the comic book
Superman..... but the Saturday morning cartoon Superman. My father and I would watch George Reeve and be amazed that all he did was put on a business suit and a pair of glasses and everyone was fooled. But the cartoon Superman lowered his voice, adopted a swagger, did the little hair thing and look out bad guys. Apparantly the radio Superman's whole persona was attitude. Makes sense.
I have a profound respect for men like Martin Luther King, Gandhi.....Jesus.. They knew they were in for a whuppin' but faced it without raising a hand. Passive resistance. The biggest man with the biggest club can't beat that. I don't think I would have had the nerve to walk with a group of demonstrators down a Selma street in the sixties. That takes a certain breed. People with foresight, a ton of guts, a feeling of "right" and, of course, attitude. The people with the hoses....the clubs...the dogs....knew they couldn't fight that attitude for long. If you've never seen the movie "Braveheart", rent it. Everyone has fear. Some just cover it better than others.
I've sat in with a lot of different bands or played by myself over the years in situations where I knew I wasn't
as prepared as I should have been but attitude's always pulled me through. Show no fear! (this works with angry dogs, too) I used to say faking it, but that's not really it. It has to be in there somewhere or you wouldn't have put yourself in that situation to start with. You take a deep breath, chug on through and when it's over, whatever the result, you won't have that feeling in your stomach. Everyone's got hurdles to clear, some larger than others. But they're usually not insurmountable, nor as high as they look. Attitude. Anybody here......seen my old friend Martin?

1 comment:

Cyn Beams Zawojski said...

I also grew up in Plainfield, NJ and graduated from PHS in 1967. It was a troubling time - I remember the tanks going up and down 7th street where I lived.